“When you are generous, sometimes people will take advantage. You may be respectful and yet some people will still be unkind. You may be a good person, and some people will nonetheless still treat you terribly… How you treat others is really about who you choose to be in this life… That’s how the world changes — one brave person like you being kind.” ~ Bryant McGill
Our Shero is surrounded by her three boys after an action packed day. For the first time since her accident she was able to take our Hero to one of his appointments. It made them both happy, and it makes me happy that she was able to regain her independence. They’ve both still got a lot of appointments over the next six weeks, but things are getting better. I count four blessings on my couch.
“Don’t ever save anything for a special occasion. Being alive is the special occasion.” ~ Unknown
Adam Watkins has been an attentive student of his great-uncle Shorty. For a second week he has taken instruction on speaking German, specifically, counting one to ten. The boys in the family have, at one time or another, been drawn to dad for his fantastical stories of family, old times, and combat. And for his quirky sense of humor. It’s always entertaining to watch because dad really enjoys sharing what he knows with a new generation. Adam is a good student, and a great boy.
“We live in a time when science is validating what humans have known throughout the ages: that compassion is not a luxury; it is a necessity for our well-being, resilience, and survival.”
~ Joan Halifax
Uncle Greg’s funeral was chock full of symbolism and a truck load of humor. You see, he had his coffin custom built. It’s been sitting in his cabin up Railroad Fork for the last six years. The utility company came through to clear the lines, and fell a walnut tree on his property. Rather than let it rot, he sawed it into planks, then hired a local Mennonite carpenter to build the coffin. He needed someplace to keep it until it was needed, so he put it in his cabin. Some might find that morbid, but for me, it was one of the most creative things to do. Why would you pay thousands for a coffin when you could have one built from a piece of wood off the land that’s been in our family for generations? It wasn’t just practical, it was meaningful. It was very Uncle Greg.
Greg had worked thirty years at General Motors in Ohio. Between that and his farm(s) in Brown County, he’d made quite a few friends in Ohio. The family held visitation in Ohio the night before the funeral in Eastern Kentucky. The following morning, Richard loaded Uncle Greg (in his coffin) into his pick-up truck, and followed by the family assembled in Ohio, they started a journey to Eastern Kentucky for Greg’s final resting place. Dad and Uncle Phillip fell in with the caravan at Index (that’s in Morgan County) as they escorted Greg up Highway 191 through Cannel City for the last time. I was told the whole journey was a spectacular thing to see. Greg in his coffin riding in a pick-up truck up Highway 191. It was very Uncle Greg.
Uncle Greg had four children; the most of any of dad’s brothers and sisters. Those children gave he and Aunt Virginia nine grandchildren, and it was they who acted as pallbearers. The youngest is Pierce. While he was too small to bear the full weight of the coffin (top photo), he was more than big enough to bury his grandfather (last photo). I think he would have buried the coffin single-handedly if the other men hadn’t stepped in. He was being very Uncle Greg about it, actually; completely determined to do the job. It was a long day, but it was an extraordinary day from start to finish, just like Uncle Greg.
“You must do the things you think you cannot do.” ~ Eleanor Roosevelt
Today was an especially important day. Today, our Hero turned 79 years old. We learned just how bad his heart condition was after his heart attack last year. That, coupled with other significant maladies, pretty much ensured he had very limited time. I can’t tell you how pleasantly surprised, and overwhelmingly grateful, I am that he lived to see this birthday. Make no mistake about it. Shorty Terry is one of the toughest men you will ever meet. Not only has he outlived expectations, he is maintaining his health pretty doggone well, all things considered.
Losing Uncle Greg yesterday was not just devastating to the family, it was concerning for our Hero because of his own fragile health; because losing Greg, not two years his junior, drove home his own impending departure; and because he loved and respected Greg deeply. He is heartbroken. In light of Greg’s passing, mom and I had planned to hold off on birthday festivities, that was, until Lois called this morning. God bless her for always going the extra mile for her family. By 10am she had rallied the sisters and the local cousins (she would have rallied the brothers if they lived closer) for a birthday celebration in the sun. It was exactly what we all needed, and it was especially important for our heartbroken Hero. He finally had the birthday party he’d always wanted, and it took the sting out of losing his beloved brother. Once again, today proved that no matter how heartbroken you may be, there is always something to be grateful for. My plate remains overflowing with gratitude.
“It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might has well not have lived at all, in which case you have failed by default.” ~ J. K. Rowling
Dad voted Sharon “Miss New Zealand.” Here she’s practicing her wave for adoring fans awaiting her return home. Dad loves Sharon, in case you can’t tell. Mom loves her, too. It’s mutual. Sharon has always treated our S/Heros with loving kindness. She’ll often send them beautiful gifts from New Zealand just because. That’s just the kind of person she is. She’s an excellent role model, which is just another reason she’s such a great friend.
“Don’t wait for things to get easier, simpler, or better. Life will always be complicated.
Learn to be happy right now. Otherwise, you’ll run out of time.” ~ Unknown
Awesome RN Tina Davis (left) and Awesome Dr. Elizabeth Forester (right) have been an absolute Godsend. They’ve been looking after dad for a couple of years, but when mom had her accident and I had to take over, they went above and beyond to help me acclimate to his situation, navigate the VA system, and help with the follow up care mom will need. I simply cannot say enough about how this dynamic duo has restored my faith in the VA. But more than that, they really care about their patients, and there’s not enough thanks in the world for that. Dad adores them. He actually looks forward to going to the doctor when it’s them he’s going to see. But wait, there’s more. In keeping with this week’s theme of coincidences, Tina actually knew about me before we met. For years she worked with BFF and equally awesome RN, Greg Gross, who must have said only good things about me because Tina was happy to meet. Greg doesn’t keep bad company, and I totally understand why he and Tina are friends. She’s smart, funny, creative, and compassionate as can be. Just like him. I am so thankful to Tina and Dr. Forester. They’re angels for sure.
“Think big and don’t listen to people who tell you it can’t be done. Life’s too short to think small.”
~ Tim Ferriss
Last Friday was very busy. In between all the running we had a wonderful surprise visit from Jeff and Cheryl Farmer. Jeff is the pastor at mom and dad’s church (Mamaw’s church) in West Liberty. They were in town for an appointment and made a point of coming to see mom since she was a recent escapee from rehab. Jeff was the poor person who had to call me when mom had her accident. He was very gentle in breaking the news, and that’s because he’s a very gentle man. He’s soft spoken with loads of smiles, and he’s always positive, which I really appreciate. He’s also a drummer, so naturally, we get along very well. He has been so good with mom and dad. He’s active in their lives, with many of his parishioners in fact, and that has made a huge difference to all three of us. He’s a really good man and I’m grateful for his kindness and good humor.
“It’s up to you to find beauty in the ugliest days.” ~ Unknown
It’s mom’s last night at Cardinal Hill. Dad spent the afternoon with her. I said I’d pick him up at dark. I peeped in the window and this was what I found. He’d slept most of the afternoon. When we got to the car I remarked that this had been a long journey. He replied, “Remind me never to break my hip.” He cracks me up. I’m pretty sure mom would agree, with me and with him. Here’s to healing.
“Optimism: someone who figures that taking a step backward after taking a step forward is not a disaster; it’s more like a cha-cha.” ~ Unknown
He virtually ran to her bedside, kissed her, then grabbed her hand and would not let go. I brought him a chair, and in a few minutes, this was what I saw. Both of them were sound asleep, and they stayed that way until Uncle Darrell arrived to make them laugh the afternoon away. Not everyone marries their soul mate, but when they do, this is what it looks like.
“A warm smile is the universal language of kindness.” ~ William Arthur Ward
Our Shero had an exhausting day, but she came through the long, hard surgery with a brand new hip, and she’s now a little bit taller (seriously! the old hip had made her leg shorter than in should have been). As fate would have it, she had the state’s top Orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Silby (apparently he replaced Coach Cal’s knee, and that’s made him famous, at least in Kentucky). His team was equally incredible. I watched the pre-op team work diligently to ensure everything was as mistake-free and perfect for mom’s myriad conditions as humanly possible. I really cannot say enough wonderful things about the employees at the University of Kentucky Medical Center. Even the shuttle drivers are kind. Dad and I got through the day with the help of some very special people. Aunt Lois was so kind to join us, and stay for the duration (this would be even worse than it is were it not for her). Mom and dad’s pastor, Jeff Farmer, drove all the way from West Liberty to be with us. He’d accepted the horrible job of calling me about the accident on Monday, but his soft spoken approach was the perfect delivery. Like Lois, he was/is a calming force. Cousin Renee Watkins, Crystal Heis (fast becoming an honorary Terry), and Judy Sackett all paid us a visit during the near-three hour surgery. Meanwhile, Stacy looked after the dogs and got the mail. Uncle Phillip and Aunt Linda are looking after mom and dad’s house. So many people from all over the country, some we haven’t even met in person, texted or called or sent well wishes and prayers in some form or fashion that it was hard to not be hopeful. As for our Shero, she’s not out of the woods yet. The surgery is just the first hurdle, unfortunately. The next couple of days will be critical, but I am confident that UK’s team, who are growing to love her as much as we do, will do everything in their power to pull her through. Light and love to all of you who are taking this journey with me, and thank you for your kindness to my folks and I. It has not gone unnoticed.